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Cancer Marker

Updated on August 22, 2016
elayne001 profile image

Ruth, aka Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian boy and has had amazing travel experiences

Lung Cancer
Lung Cancer

There, I said it - the big C word. No one wants to hear it. You may have a family member who has it, be a survivor yourself, or know someone who has died from it.

Since I have PBC (primary biliary cirrhosis) I am concerned about liver cancer. I have blood tests every so many months to keep an eye on my liver enzyme levels. There is a high incidence of liver cancer resulting from individuals who have had liver cirrhosis.

You may have been curious how doctors can tell what stage of cancer a person has.

Alpha-fetoprotein or AFP is a type of tumor marker which is used to diagnose cancer. These markers are used to determine which stage of cancer a patient has. Tumor markers are substances (mostly proteins) that are produced by the body or by the tumor itself in response to cancer.

A high reading of certain proteins in a urine or blood sample may indicate a more aggressive cancer. Usually, the higher the resulting number of the marker, the higher the stage of cancer.

Cancer cells

They may look pretty, but they are deadly cancer cells
They may look pretty, but they are deadly cancer cells

Where symptoms suggest cancer in a patient, urine and blood samples are taken and submitted to a laboratory to be tested for cancer tumor marker levels.

The results assist the physician in determining if a patient has cancer. They can also help diagnose the type of cancer the patient has.

Cancer markers also are useful in determining the prognosis for the patient. They are also used to check to see if cancer has returned after remission.

A biopsy is taken once a diagnosis of cancer has been made, and again tumor markers can help to determine the amount of cancer that is present in the patient's body.

Advanced cancer is indicated by higher tumor marker levels and the prognosis is less positive.

With the help of cancer markers, a doctor can then determine the best treatment for the patient.

Types of Tumor Markers

Some of the most common tumor markers (AFP) are used for diagnosing the following cancers:

  • Liver
  • Ovarian
  • Breast
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Pancreatic
  • Lung
  • Colon
  • Prostate

Cancer research is ongoing in hopes to discover tumor markers for other types of cancers.

Not just one tumor marker is used for all cancers, and not all cancers have tumor markers that work specifically for their diagnosis and treatment.

Once cancer treatment has been started by a patient, they will need to have further testing with tumor markers to see if their particular treatment is working.

If the tumor marker level declines, it usually is an indication that the current treatment is working.

If the level increases or stays the same, the physician may try a different form of treatment.

It is important that a certain amount of time has passed between cancer marker testing to give the treatment a chance to work on the tumor.

Drawbacks of Tumor Markers

There are only a few cancer tumor markers that are able to find cancer in the early stages. In fact, there are certain noncancerous diseases which may contribute to a high tumor marker level.

On occasion, cancer tumor marker levels may not be elevated in a person who really has cancer. It is important that all tests are taken into consideration, including a complete physical examination, history of the patient, other laboratory tests and scans.

Another drawback of testing with tumor markers is that sometimes you get a false positive. There are a few factors that might contribute to an inaccurate lab test. Certain medications can alter the results of blood and urine tests, including Vitamin C, Naproxen Sodium or Tylenol. Some antibiotics can also affect the tests.

False positives rates for tumor marker tests are usually 5 per cent. For other false positives or false negatives and their causes go to this link.

Personally, I have lost a boss to cancer from smoking. It was not lung, but nose cancer. He was way too young to die, and was a very kind man. He was a chain smoker.

I am glad that research continues on cancer markers to help in detecting cancer cells early on so a person has a better chance of surviving.

If you have peculiar symptoms, breast changes, weight loss, unusual bleeding, unexplained fatigue, gnawing pain, indigestion, changes in lymph nodes, depression, or persistent cough or sore that will not heal, go to see your doctor. It is better to be tested early rather than wait until it is too late to treat it.

Sorry, this is such a serious topic, I thought I would lighten it up.
Sorry, this is such a serious topic, I thought I would lighten it up.

Interesting Fact

Tumor marker testing is also used for screening a healthy or a high- risk population for cancer.


Submit a Comment
  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thank you cookingrecipes. I appreciate your positive comments and vote. Glad you found it useful.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thank you for your positive feedback thelyricwriter. I agree we that we all need to be more aware, especially when it comes to our own health. Aloha!

  • thelyricwriter profile image

    Richard Ricky Hale 

    8 years ago from West Virginia

    Wlayne, voted up. Very useful article. It is very serious and we should all be aware. You structured it great. I love all the illustration aslo. I look forward to reading more of your writings. Take care dear.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    So true The Farmers Wife. It is ironic isn't it? Thanks for your positive comments.

  • The Farmers Wife profile image

    The Farmers Wife 

    8 years ago from Turkey

    Such pretty photos with such awful results :-( Excellent article and very informative. Thank you for sharing.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks frogyfish. I use natural products quite a bit now. My latest discovery is essential oils. I really enjoy using them. Thanks for your comments.

  • frogyfish profile image


    9 years ago from Central United States of America

    Very informative. And glad you put in the turmeric link as there are several natural products to assist whatever TX one chooses. Thanks for your hard work here!

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    You are very welcome glwrgos12. I appreciate your comments.

  • giwrgos12 profile image


    9 years ago from San Diego

    Thank you elayne001 for sharing this useful things with us

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Linda - I'm glad you were able to use the information.

  • Linda MS Enos profile image

    Linda Mi Suk Enos 

    9 years ago from Beautiful Manoa Valley

    I've posted your hub on Cancer on my Face Book! Thank you! I wish you success in your hubpages! :)

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    You are welcome pmccray. Hopefully more people can benefit from this information on cancer markers. Aloha.

  • pmccray profile image


    9 years ago from Utah

    Very well written and researched hub. Thank you for sharing this important information.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thank you so much Medical Writer for your comments and additional information.

  • Medical Writer profile image

    Medical Writer 

    9 years ago from Great Britain

    microRNA are the new biomarkers in certain cancer and diseases. Gene therapy have gone a long way. Brilliant article.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    I appreciate that Barbara. Thanks for commenting.

  • Barbara Kay profile image

    Barbara Badder 

    9 years ago from USA

    This was a very informative hub. Good job.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    You are too kind KKalmes. I appreciate your comments.

  • KKalmes profile image


    9 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

    Hello Elayne, and thank you for a very informative and detailed article on cancer markers... both helpful and life-saving.

    Thumbs up and awesome because we don't have an excellent rating.

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Hello, hello. I am always interested in anything medical, so it was a joy for me to research about cancer markers.

    Again, thank you LianaK. You are always so encouraging.

  • LianaK profile image


    9 years ago

    Wonderfully presented! Great information. Hope everyone takes heed of the warning signs. Thank you for the wonderful hub.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    9 years ago from London, UK

    This is a fantastic and very, very interesting hub. Thank you for doing so much research and putting it together

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks abbiz. It is something I was curious about and hope that others can learn from this subject of cancer markers too.

    I agree, Simple Tim, that with the technology we have today, we should take advantage of it and get screened if we are suspicious about something out of the ordinary.

    @drbj - Knowledge is power and if I can help just one person, it will be worth it.

    Thanks Alison. I appreciate your comments and agree that we need to be more informed.

  • Alison Graham profile image

    Alison Graham 

    9 years ago from UK

    You have done so much research for this and presented it so clearly and well. Thank you, it is a topic that none of really want to think about but we need to be informed. I wish you well with your own health. voted up.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    9 years ago from south Florida

    Mahalo, Elayne, for this fascinating account of cancer markers. You have performed a needed public service with this thorough and interesting research.

  • Simple Tim profile image

    Simple Tim 

    9 years ago

    Thanks for this informative hub Elayne001!It's a pity that we still have so much stigma attached to this disease... say the C word and everyone wants to cringe. The more we know about it the better equiped we can be to deal with it. I've seen first hand what it is capable of-one of my sisters was diagnosed with Lukemia three years ago and I had a benign tumor removed earlier this year! My sisters as fit as a fiddle after her stem cell translplant. Its one of the most scary things at first but A positive mind set is essential! and it is comfortaing knowing that we do have the technology to overcome it. Despite the trauma Cancer CAN be beaten.

    We should also take full advantage of the screenings to pick up early signs of the disease-this is a sure way of defeating it.

  • abbiz profile image


    9 years ago from M-A

    Verry good job you made elayne, This really a useful Hub! Wish a wonderful succes


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